Kiran Nagarkar, a native of Mumbai and author of several novels, including "God's Little Soldier," spoke to DW about terrorism and the media's role in covering it in the wake of the two-day long siege on his hometown.
"Certainly, the Indian media is hysterical," Nagarkar claims
DW-WORLD.DE: You've spoken in the past about terrorists being labeled as “primitive” and the dangers of labeling people that way. Do you find your views confirmed by these events?
Whatever thoughts I have, this unfortunately reconfirms what I've been saying. As you well know, these guys who were there seem to be high tech. The planning itself is very meticulous. They are deeply conscious about doing everything to have the largest possible impact on media. They are not doing this for any other reason but to get media attention. I'm talking about taking the foreigners hostage, attacking a Jewish home. There is such a tiny population of Jewish people in Bombay (officially called Mumbai) and it is truly tragic that those few Jewish people are being attacked also.
But let's talk about the terrorists who have come this time. It's not your madrassa guy -- yes, the madrassas have been the birthplace of many terrorists, and of that kind of thinking. But a lot of other Muslims have been alienated because of the world's stance on issues like Palestine, on issues like Kashmir. And I think there is now a tremendous attraction that these people feel because of the media attention. I think they want this media attention and that is why they are escalating their violence.
Has the media, then, in some way played into their hands by their reporting of the events over the past two days?
Nagarkar's book "God's Little Soldier" traces the development of a terrorist in India
It's not the last two days, it's much earlier than that. I completely understand that there is no getting away from media attention but this hysterical media attention I find very dubious. Yes, the media has to cover these events. But there has to be some discrimination. Where are the calm voices? At some point in time this subject needs to be looked into very seriously -- the question of, is it only alienation? Is it the fact that they have serious grievances that is making them do these things? Or is it that now it's their moment of glory? Not just in front of Allah but in front of a damned TV screen. I think this is something that's been overlooked to a great extent.
Do you think the accusations of involvement being leveled at Pakistan could create greater division between Muslims and other religious groups in India and between India and Pakistan?
That question has to be handled very carefully. On the one hand, I think it is extremely premature … nobody seems to have any concrete proof. It is entirely wrong on the part of anybody within India to make such allegations.
On the other hand, if in 10 days or 10 months from now, if it transpired that there is genuine proof that it was Pakistan who were behind this, then we have to come out and say that this might be the case. At the same time, we have to make sure that it is absolutely noted that it is no reflection on Muslims in India. Or it is no reflection on the Muslims in Pakistan either.
When we make such statements, even with the full proof behind us, let us also make amply clear that there is no accusation against Muslims as such at all. When we speak of India, we are speaking of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, and Sikhs together. We are all affected…. Are you trying to say that the Muslims themselves in Bombay are not affected by this? As much as the Hindus. Nobody's rejoicing. Maybe some awful fanatics might be rejoicing.
In your book "God's Little Soldier," which traces the development of a religious fundamentalist who turns to terrorism, you also describe the issues of class and wealth that many Indians face, what with such a huge gap in Mumbai between rich and poor. These attacks, as we see, took place in a very wealthy part of the city. Do you think issues of class have played a major role in these attacks?
Insofar as it gains far higher visibility for the terrorists, yes of course. They singled out many locations but this time, there were two of the most affluent, rather expensive hotels in India. The Taj Mahal is of course a landmark. So they knew exactly what they were doing. They were very smart, if you think of their objectives. It says something awful about the Indian governance, the Indian police that we did not have any contingency plans, but the terrorists knew what they were doing. They've had bombings all over the country before that have attracted publicity, but never the kind of international attention that they're getting now. Don't forget, even in death, there are priorities.
It's appalling that all these people died and are injured or are suffering so terribly. I hope to God never again will our people let foreigners ever suffer like this. But I hope to God also, simultaneously, never again will my government or my police or my countrymen allow my own countrymen to suffer like this. I mean that we will take care of each other. I do not think of people as foreigners or Indians. I think of them as human beings and every human being is valuable. As I say in my book, “There is only one God and her name is life. She's the only one worthy of worship. All else is irrelevant.” I believe this deeply.